• <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. Iconic signed Darwin photograph "I like this photograph much better than any other which ..."
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. <i>Autograph Letter Signed</i>. Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> WRIGHT, WILBUR. Experiments and Observations in Soaring Flight. Journal of the Western Society of Engineers 8, no. 4 (August, 1903).
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH. Signed and dated Oxford 1931.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> GARDNER, ALEXANDER. Antietam Bridge, Maryland. "One of the memorable spots in the history of the war."
  • <b>Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts, 8 June 2016, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 1. ARISTOTLE. 384-322 B.C.E. De animalibus [De historia animalium. De partibus animalium. De generatione animalium.] US$ 300,000-500,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 44. ARIOSTO, LUDOVICO. 1474-1533. Orlando Furioso in English Heroical Verse, by John Haringto[n]. [London: Richard Field, 1591.] US$ 70,000-90,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 183. HARRISON, William Henry. Document Signed AS PRESIDENT ("W.H. Harrison"). US$ 40,000-60,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 116. <br>ALI, MUHAMMAD. B.1942. U.S. Passport Signed ("Muhammad Ali") Twice, [Dublin, July 19, 1972].<br>US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 52. Bible In English. [Mearne, Samuel, binder.] The Holy Bible containing the bookes of the Old & New Testament. US$ 25,000-35,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 130. EARHART, Amelia. 1897-1937. Archive of material on the purchase and outfitting of Earhart's Lockheed Electra 10e. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams June 8:</b> Lot 85. BURTON, Virginia Lee. 1909-1968. The Little House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942. US$ 15,000-20,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 68. CAMERON (Julia Margaret) Kate Keown [No. 5 Of Series of Twelve Lifesized Heads], [1866]. <br>£30,000-50,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 98. Karl Marx. Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie... Erster Band, FIRST EDITION, 1867.<br>£80,000-120,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 111. Isaac Newton Autograph manuscript, in English, headed "The Question stated about abstaining from blood". £50,000-70,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 112. Nobel Prize for discovering isotopes in stable elements, awarded to F.W. Aston in 1922. £200,000-400,000.
    <b>Bonhams London June 15.</b> Lot 140. Kay Nielsen (Prince Bismarck discovering the soldier), 1913. £15,000-20,000.
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 552. Zoologie. Merian, Maria Sibylla. De Europische insecten ... Estimate 32000 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 32. (Horae beatae maria virginis.)-(Hours for use of Paris) presented a lusaige hours of Paris. Gedrucktes Stundenbuch auf Pergament. Estimate 10000 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 15. Inkunabeln. Curtius Rufus, Quintus. Third known edition.<br>Estimate 7000 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 145. Atlanten - China. Philippe Vandermaelen. Atlas Universel de Géographie Physique, Politique, Statistique et Minéralogique. Estimate 6000 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 144. Atlanten. Seutter, Matthäus. Nordenskiöld 283. Phillips 3494. Estimate 4500 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 864. Mulinari, Stefano. Disegni originali d'eccellenti pittori esistenti nella Real Galleria ... <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 864. Mulinari, Stefano. Disegni originali d'eccellenti pittori e
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 29. Reisch, Gregor. Margarita philosophica (with a (m ) addition new timber. Estimate 3000 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 37. Antiphonar. Proprium Officium Defuntoru. Ad versperas. Ana. Estimate 2500 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 11. Einbände. Fünf Werke der lateinischen Klassik. Amsterdam, Blaeu 1630-1632. Estimate 1800 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 87. Zirardini, Gaetano Conte. Comparazione fra le luminose gesta dell'imperatore Carlo V. con quelle dell'imperatore Francesco I. d'Austria. Estimate 1500 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 432. Fische. Couch, Jonathan. A history of the fishes of the British Islands. 4 Bde. Mit 252 handkolor. Estimate 1200 €.
    <b>Jeschke Van Vliet Berlin May 27:</b><br>Lot 950. Arp, Hans. Mondsand. Gedichte. Mit 7 Original-Radierungen von Hans Arp. Estimate 1200 €.

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2008 Issue

The Government Faces Off Against a Collector for a Declaration of Independence

Wiscasset

Turn of the Century Wiscasset, from the period when the Declaration was in the home of Town Clerk Sol Holbrook.


By Michael Stillman

Another case involving "lost" public documents is playing out in a Virginia court, the type of case we both hate to see and expect to see more of in the days ahead. It pits a public authority against an innocent collector, the latter standing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of a purchase made in good faith. There must be a better way.

The item is a copy of the Declaration of Independence, not the first printing, but a very early one, from 1776. It was printed in Salem, Massachusetts, and apparently went to the Town of Pownalborough in what was then northern Massachusetts. The town is today known as Wiscasset and what was then northern Massachusetts is now known as Maine. Somewhere along the way, as Massachusetts lost Pownalborough and Pownalborough lost its name, Wiscasset lost its copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Today it is in the possession of Richard L. Adams of Virginia. Obviously, he believes he is the owner. He would not have paid $475,000 to borrow it for a few months. Exactly what happened to it between 1776 and 2008 is not certain, but here is what appears to have occurred over the last hundred years or so. It apparently was held by Sol Holbrook, a watchmaker by trade who was Wiscasset's Town Clerk from 1886-1929. It may sound odd, even questionable, that a town clerk would have had important public papers in his home, but those of us who have lived in small town New England will not be surprised at all. These towns would have had few, if any, public facilities, and no place to store the reams of public papers that accumulated over a century and a half. The one person who would be most likely to ever need any of these records would be the Town Clerk, so it is quite natural that they would end up in his house. And, while there might be some call for town minutes or the like from the past decade or so, the need to access records from the distant past would be negligible if not totally nonexistent. Most likely, the records, which included this Declaration of Independence, made their way to Holbrook's attic quite early in his town clerking career, and never saw the light of day again.

After Holbrook died, no one came to reclaim the records for the town. It is likely after all of those years no one knew what he had, and no one cared. So the records ended up in the attic of Holbrook's daughter, Anna Plumstead. It's doubtful either she or her father ever had any idea there was something valuable in there. When she died in 1994, her belongings were put up for auction, and that was when it became clear there was something of value. At that 1995 estate auction, it sold for $77,000. Since then, it has gone through a couple of private sales, at one time being held by London bookseller Simon Finch, before making its way to Adams. Now, Adams wants to sell it, and the State of Maine, which somehow missed the auction in Maine in which it was sold, has hightailed it down to Virginia to seize the copy.

Rare Book Monthly

  • http://catalogue.swanngalleries.com/asp/searchresults.asp?sale_no=2419&st=D&viewby=lot_asc&ps=25&pg=1
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> Lewis Carroll, <i>Alice's Adventures</i>, illustrated & signed by Salvador Dalí, New York, 1969. <br>$12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> David Roberts, <i>The Holy Land</i>, 6 volumes, London, 1842-49. <br>$35,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> Arthur Szyk, <i>The Szyk Haggadah</i>, edited by Cecil Roth, first edition, signed, London, 1939. <br>$15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> William Shakespeare, <i>The Dramatic Works</i>, 9 illustrated volumes, London, 1802. $5,000 to $7,500.
    http://catalogue.swanngalleries.com/asp/searchresults.asp?sale_no=2419&st=D&viewby=lot_asc&ps=25&pg=1
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> Grimm Brothers, <i>Little Brother & Little Sister</i>, illustrated & signed by Arthur Rackham, London, 1917. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> John Milton, <i>Paradise Lost</i>, illustrated by John Martin, London, 1846. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> Edward Young, <i>The Complaint, and The Consolation</i>, first edition, illustrated by William Blake, London, 1797. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 14:</b> <i>Catalogue of the Morgan Collection of Chinese Porcelains</i>, first edition, New York, 1904-11. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>American History: Live Salesroom Auction, June 10, 10:00 AM ET</b>
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 5. The Confederate Blockade Runner <i>CSS Colonel Lamb at Sea</i>, 1864, by Samuel Walters. Est $60000-$80000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 140. Brevet Brigadier General James H. Kidd, 6th Michigan Cavalry, Exceptional Collection. Est Est $80000-$100000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 141. Elizabeth "Libbie" Bacon Custer, ALS and Souvenir Relics from the Surrender at Appomattox Court House.<br>Est $20000-$30000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 116. Colonel Elmer E. Ellsworth Presentation Sword and Archive. Lot of 52 items related to Elmer Ellsworth.<br>Est $100000-$200000.
    <b>American History: Live Salesroom Auction, June 10, 10:00 AM ET</b>
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 1. Paul Revere, War of 1812, Mechanics of the Town of Boston Signed Pledge. <br>Est $10000-$15000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 64. Rare Whole Plate Tintype of the Ill-Fated Civil War Steamer Sultana. <br>Est $5000-$7000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 346. James B. "Wild Bill" Hickok Tintype and Autograph Poem Signed.<br>Est $20000-$30000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 330. Remarkable California US Mail Steamship Co. Broadside, 1859. <br>Est $10000-$15000.
    <b>American History: Live Salesroom Auction, June 10, 10:00 AM ET</b>
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 161. Previously Unknown Daguerreotype of Future First Lady Julia Dent Grant and Sons Made for Captain Ulysses S. Grant. Est $10000-$15000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 229. <i>Titanic Disaster</i>, Ogden Family Travel Album Containing 30 Photographs Taken from the RMS Carpathia. <br>Est $5000-$7000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 230. RMS <i>Titanic</i>, Cork from Life Belt Salvaged by Passengers of the RMS <i>Carpathia</i>. Est $7000-$9000.
    <b>Cowans June 10:</b> Lot 231. Bronze RMS Carpathia Medals Presented to Mr. & Mrs. Ogden, Plus ALS from Captain Arthur Rostron.<br>Est $4000-$6000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions